Remember too that each of us are at a different level of skills so stop comparing yourself to others.
I am self taught with just a few art classes. My first exhibit into the public arena was the County Fair in my home town. Judged and out there for all to see. Remove your ego, because not everyone will like your artwork or understand it. I registered as a armature but after two years and because I sold a few paintings they defined me as a professional!!!!
I have learned in the last ten years that there is really no one way to become a professional.
It's really up to you how you want to be seen as an artist.
Establish Goals, National Fame does not come to us overnight, nor should it.